This is another story that I wrote in the mid-1990s. It was definitely my ‘blue’ period.
The old abbot looked out across the dusty compound surrounding the ancient old chedi from the shade of a tree. It was late in the afternoon, on a typically hot March day. The workmen were already finishing up their work for the day; not that there were that many of them left. The work on the reconstruction of the chedi was almost complete. The structure, which was once the tallest in all of Thailand, was once more restored to its full height. The abbot wasn’t so sure this was really a good idea. The chedi was toppled by an earthquake hundreds of years ago, so obviously the Lord Buddha was not happy with this monument to his memory. Besides, the abbot was none too happy about the disruption of his once quiet, sleepy old temple.
Everything was fine until that American showed up. He changed everything. No longer was the temple a quiet place for the abbot to grow old. Now there were workmen and, worst of all, tourists, to disturb his quiet reflections. People, and governments, had discussed re-building the chedi for many years, but governments came and went before having time to do much of anything, and the bureaucracy that survived from government to government saw to it that nobody could do anything.
But then the American came; with ideas as big as his two meter frame. He had lived in Thailand many years, and had been very successful in business. Computers or something like that. He wanted to re-build the chedi “to make merit” for the many people who had helped him succeed over the years. He charmed, paid, and with his huge body easily intimidated people to get what he wanted. Within a few months of his arrival, the work discussed for many years was started. Within another few months, the American was dead.
Looking out across the yard, more or less vacant in the heat of the afternoon, the abbot saw Kamoon cross the yard and walk towards the monks quarters, his eyes apparently focused firmly on the ground in front of him. Kamoon had come with the American; was his close friend apparently. When his friend had died, Kamoon asked to be allowed to become a novice, to make merit for his friend, although the abbot knew it was to help him forget. Several cats trailed behind Kamoon, although he didn’t seem to pay them any attention. It often seemed to the abbot that there were a lot more cats around the temple these days.
Kamoon saw the abbot watching him cross the yard, but only noted it, put it away to one side of his mind, like he did everything else now. He didn’t think about it at all, didn’t wonder what the abbot was thinking. All he ever thought about was David. Even after all these months, all he ever thought about was David. The only person he had ever really loved. Kamoon could still not believe that David was gone, forever; that he would never see him again; that he would now be alone for the rest of his life. He often wondered how he kept going.
Kamoon walked quickly down the path between the small individual shacks that served as the monk’s quarters. He was not unaware of the cats following him. It seemed like there was always one or two of them chasing the tails of his robe, but he tried to ignore them. Like so many things they just reminded him of David. He had loved cats; their fur, their grace, their power that seemed to come in spite of their seeming indolence. He often joked of wanting to be re-born as a cat. Mainly, he said, because they make love for four hours at a time. Kamoon came to his small cell and entered it. He sat down on the mat. Soon the tears came again, as they still came almost every day. Would this pain ever end?
The night was now a couple hours old. Kamoon’s tears had dried, and the effort to try and control himself had drained all his energy, left him very tired, and he fell into a deep sleep. At least, in his dreams, David was still alive. He could curl up in the big man’s arms, lay his head on David’s shoulder, and believe that the world was a wonderful place. In his dreams, David came to him, and often made love to him, slowly, gently, the way no other man ever had.
The cats of the temple had, in fact, increased in numbers recently. Naturalists, if they were ever asked for an opinion on the subject, would no doubt point to the larger number of people visiting the temple as a reason for the increase, but there were other reasons, more spiritual than scientific. In the early evening, they often seemed to gather around the chedi. They explored up and down all its nooks and crannies, almost as if “inspecting” the day’s work. The cats would usually curl up on the ledges here and there, absorbing what was left of the day’s heat stored in the stones of the tower. Later, as the night drew on and the stones lost their heat, the cats would disperse through the temple, looking for other comfortable places to sleep.
As Kamoon fell into his deep sleep, a large cat leapt onto the sill of the open window to his cell. The cat was larger than most of the apparently under-fed cats of the temple. The short thick fir was gray, the color of rain clouds and the eyes, luminous at night, were green in the day. The Thais called this breed of Siamese cats a “Korat” and believed that it bought good luck. The cat crouched securely on the narrow sill and watched the still young sleeping monk intently for several minutes. He then silently jumped down into the monk’s room and curled up next to the soundly sleeping monk. Soon the cat was asleep and dreaming his own dreams.
Night had fallen for several hours, yet the abbot was still restless. It seemed the heat of the day lingered forever in his quarters and, to make matters worse, somewhere in the temple compound, two cats were making love.